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Column: LA/LA LAND – A New York African Bee playing guitar in the backseat of my car in LA?

A New York African Bee playing guitar in the backseat of my car, and a haunted tour through rock’s history and future

Patrick O”Heffernan

(Los Angeles)  First the Bee.  Her name is Binx and she always appears in a custom made African bee leotard costume, complete with yellow and black horizontal stripes, plenty of leg and cleavage and even wings.  She is from South Africa and has been anointed The African Bee in the New York music world.  She was in LA last week for gigs at the Silverlake Lounge, St. Roche and Bar Lubitsch in West Hollywood.

It was at Bar Lubitsch that things headed south. I drove her and her assistant from dinner to BL and parked in front of the entrance at the appointed time for her mic check and rehearsal. But the gate and the back entrance for bands were locked and no one answered the phone. It was 6 pm, doors opened at 7, she needed to practice. So, Binx folded her 6 foot+ frame into my Ford Escape’s back seat, took out her guitar and started running through the set list in full concert voice. Of course, this being LA, people walking by on the street glanced into the car and said to themselves,  “Oh, there is a blond in a bee costume singing in that car” and kept on walking.

The owner arrived and opened the gate at 7 pm, told us the sound man had been inside setting up inside for an hour and was inside wondering where Binx was while Binx was outside wondering where he was – and singing in the backseat.  Actually, it made for a pretty good video. Binx’s show was fabulous and made for a great story to tell New York audiences about music in LA.

Speaking of  stories of music in LA, Sound City Studios is full of them.  Founded in 1969 by Tom Skeet and Joe Gottfried , it has been the launching pad for numerous superstars and the scene hundreds of gold and platinum albums by the kings and queens of rock.  It went dark 17 years ago when the music business went through drastic upheavals.  I toured Sound City last week and learned that is about to change.

But first, a story.  In 1974 a young couple named Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks came to Sound City to record a demo at the same time a British drummer named Mic Fleetwood was in one of the audio rooms for a session and his guitar player didn’t show. Rather than cancel the session, Skeeter suggested that Fleetwood try the guy in the next room over. Buckingham agreed to play on Fleetwood’s recording provided his girlfriend Stevie could sing. The rest is rock history.  

After Rumors came out and hit #1 superstars trooped to the nondescript studio (Metallica complained the kitchen wasn’t fancy enough but they loved the drum room) including The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, RATT, War, Elton John, REO Speedwagon, Santana, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and Nirvana among others. Until the bottom fell out of the music industry.

Tom’s daughter, who built a career of her own at Capitol records, is reopening Sound City Studios and took me on a pre-opening tour. I gaped at the gold and platinum records lining the walls  and heard Sandy’s stories behind each one, including the party after a Tanya Tucker recording session that ended with Glen Campbell and actor James Caan brawling in the parking lot. She also mentioned the ghost of a long past engineer seen and heard by various people in the studio’s rooms. Ghost or no ghost, Sandy opened for a relaunch party to over 350 Hollywood music luminaries who loved the top-of-the-line Helio 69 control board (one of less than a dozen in the world) , the $15,000 microphones, and the pristine vintage tape machines. But they really loved her strategy alliances with technology companies that will allow DIY bands to record in their home studios and send the signal to Sound City for processing to give the feel and depth of a major studio recording at a very affordable price.  

Stay tuned because it looks like Sandy and her team is about to upend music recording business and the music in your earbuds and headphones is going to sound much, much better.  And maybe I will see the ghost.

Previous – La/La: Intro A pool party press conference for an Argentine trio (#1)

Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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